Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ballarat and Trona

East of Ridgecrest, in the middle of nowhere, there's a ghost town called Ballarat. We especially wanted to see it because over 100 years ago, way up in those hills in the picture above, my great-grandfather was working as an engineer at the Ratcliff Mine. Ballarat was a supply town for the mines in its heyday.

There's not much left to see in Ballarat. Above is the general store, which is run by Rocky Novak. There are a couple of broken-down buildings and a broken-down truck. Behind the truck, in the picture below, you can see some RVs--some workers at the nearby Briggs Mine live out here.

Ballarat had a legendary resident, an old prospector named Seldom Seen Slim who said, "Me lonely? Hell no! I'm half coyote and half wild burro." In the 1960s, Charles Manson and his gang lived on a nearby ranch for awhile. The movie Easy Rider has a scene filmed in Ballarat--the one where Peter Fonda's character, Wyatt, takes off his Rolex and throws it away.

We also stopped at Trona. It was the weekend of the annual gem and mineral show, and the place was hopping! We took a bus tour of the massive mineral plant above, which has its own coal-fired power plant.

The main attraction in beautiful downtown Trona is the Old Guest House Museum, which has extensive displays about the region's mining history. Well worth a visit for a look into the many-storied past! I couldn't resist buying the refrigerator magnet below, which pretty much says it all.